BETHEL PARK (KDKA) — Students at Bethel Park High School may have been exposed to whooping cough.

In a letter sent home to families, Bethel Park High School Principal Dr. Zeb Jansante informed parents and guardians of the possible exposure to students.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

The symptoms can appear anywhere from five days to three weeks after infection. It starts off like a common cold, followed by a cough that gets worse over one to two weeks.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, common complications for adults and teenagers includes weight loss and bladder control loss in one in three people.

It is more serious in babies and young children because they have not received all the recommended vaccines.

Here is the letter sent home to district families:

“This letter is to inform you that your son/daughter may have been exposed to whooping cough at Bethel Park High School.

“Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a very contagious bacterial infection that can spread through close contact when people with the disease cough. Symptoms can appear 5 to 21 days after infection. It usually starts like a common cold (e.g., sneezing, runny nose, etc.) followed by a cough that gets worse over one to two weeks.  People with whooping cough may have coughing spells in which they can’t catch their breath between coughs. Some may loudly gasp (“whoop”) and vomit or feel like they’re choking. There is usually no fever with whooping cough.

“In general, the whooping cough vaccines are very effective in either preventing disease or decreasing its severity soon after receiving the vaccine series or booster dose. However, immunity from vaccination wanes quickly over time, so even children who have been fully vaccinated can get whooping cough.

“A booster dose of vaccine (Tdap) is recommended in middle school at ages 11-12 years and required for 7th grade entry in Pennsylvania. It is also recommended for adults, especially pregnant women (with each pregnancy) and caregivers of young infants.  If you or your older children haven’t had Tdap, make sure to get it now. The Tdap vaccine is widely available at doctor’s offices, some pharmacies and local health departments and is generally covered by most insurance plans.

“If your son/daughter has cold symptoms and is coughing, please contact your doctor. Tell the doctor that one confirmed case of whooping cough has been reported in your son/daughter’s school. If your son/daughter has been seen by their doctor and whooping cough was diagnosed, please keep them at home until they have completed 5 days of the prescribed antibiotic treatment. The most accurate test for diagnosing whooping cough is collected using a nasal swab.”

Parents who KDKA spoke with are worried it could spread to neighboring districts like South Park.

“I think you should keep your kids home and then just hand washing and sanitizing,” said one parent.

The Allegheny County Health Department is investigating the situation.

Bethel Park is asking for anyone diagnosed with whooping cough to stay home until they have completed five days of the prescribed antibiotic treatment.

If you or your doctor have any questions, please call the Bethel Park High School Health Office at 412-854-8550.